Abilene paradox is the theory that some consensus-based decisions are counterproductive. It’s because the choices are more based on misperceptions and poor communication. Jerry Harvey, a management expert from George Washington University, proposed it in 1974.
Harvey took the analogy that when one person suggested a visit to a tourist spot, and the other agreed, each believed that everyone wanted to leave. Upon their return, everyone acknowledged that they would rather stay at home. Harvey uses this experience to illustrate the mismanagement of agreements and decision making in organizations when real consensus is actually based on poor communication.
For example, a financial director proposes to buy software to strengthen the company’s analytic capabilities. All other directors agree. After purchasing, all directors feel that purchasing software indeed improves the company’s analytic capabilities. Still, it does not support a competitive advantage because the software is not related to the company’s core business.